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Breaking and Making Bodies and Pots: Material and Ritual Practices in Sweden in the Third Millennium BC
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History.
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In South Sweden the third millennium BC is characterised by coastal settlements of marine hunter-gatherers known as the Pitted Ware culture, and inland settlements of the Battle Axe culture. This thesis outlines the history of research of the Middle Neolithic B in general and that of the pottery and burial practices in particular. Material culture must be understood as the result of both conscious preferences and embodied practices: technology can be deliberately cultural just as style can be un-selfconscious routine. Anthropological and ethnoarchaeological research into craft and the transmission of learning in traditional societies shows how archaeologists must take into consideration the interdependence of mind and body when interpreting style, technology and change in prehistory. The pottery crafts of the Pitted Ware and Battle Axe cultures were not just fundamentally different technologically, but even more so in the attitudes toward authority, tradition, variation and the social role of the potter in the community. The Battle Axe beakers represent a wholly new chaîne opératoire, probably introduced by a small group of relocated Beaker potters at the beginning of the period.

The different attitudes toward living bodies is highlighted further in the attitudes toward the dead bodies. In the mortuary ritual the Battle Axe culture was intent upon the creation and control of a perfect body which acted as a representative of the idealised notion of what it was to belong to the community. This focus upon completeness, continuation and control is echoed in the making of beakers using the ground up remains of old vessels as temper. In contrast, the Pitted Ware culture people broke the bodies of the dead by defleshing, removal of body parts, cremation, sorting, dispersal and/or reburial of the bones on the settlements. The individuality of the living body was destroyed leaving the durable but depersonalised bones to be returned to the joint collective of the ancestors. Just as the bodies were fragmented so were the pots, sherds and bases being deposited in large quantities on the settlements and occasionally in graves. Some of the pots were also tempered with burnt and crushed bones. At the end of the Middle Neolithic the material and human remains show evidence of a growing effort to find a common ground in the two societies through sharing certain mortuary rituals and making beakers with a mix of both traditions, stylistically and technologically.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Department of Archaeology and Ancient History , 2009. , p. 493
Series
Aun, ISSN 0284-1347 ; 40
Keywords [en]
Middle Neolithic, Late Neolithic, Pitted Ware culture, Battle Axe culture, Corded Ware culture, pottery, pottery technology, craft, chaîne opératoire, mortuary archaeology, mortuary house, burial, ritual, defleshing, cremation, secondary mortuary practice, osteology, ethnoarchaeology, culture, culture change, identity, ethnicity, practice, cognition, body, embodiment
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-107370ISBN: 978-91-506-2092-4 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-107370DiVA, id: diva2:229392
Public defence
2009-09-18, Geijersalen, Centre for the Humanities, English Park Campus, Uppsala, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2009-08-28 Created: 2009-08-09 Last updated: 2009-10-06

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Larsson, Åsa Maria

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